President Trump waves to the crowd during Thursday’s “Make America Great Again” rally in Billings, Mont. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
BILLINGS, Mont. — President Trump on Thursday raised the prospects that he could face impeachment if Republicans lose control of Congress, imploring supporters at a campaign rally here to back GOP candidates in the midterm elections. “You aren’t voting for a candidate, you’re voting for which party controls Congress. It’s a very important thing,” Trump said. “They like to use the impeach word. ‘Impeach Trump!’ . . . ‘But he hasn’t done anything wrong.’ ‘Doesn’t matter, we will impeach him!’ ” The president’s riff came after days of mounting pressure on the White House over leaks from inside the administration that have deeply embarrassed the president, portraying his own aides and political appointees as raising questions about his competence. In the wake of a critical new book from journalist Bob Woodward and an anonymous opinion essay in the New York Times, Trump has grown increasingly angry and paranoid over a feeling that his staff has betrayed him. As he has repeatedly over the past two days, Trump again attacked the Times’ essay as “gutless” during his rally here and challenged Times’ reporters to discover which senior official inside his administration was granted anonymity to author the essay. “That would be a good scoop,” Trump told the crowd. But it was his own future that was clearly on his mind. “I say how do you impeach somebody who is doing a great job, hasn’t done anything wrong. Our economy is good. How do you do it?” Trump asked. “It’s a hell of a place in Washington.” The rally — in support of GOP Senate candidate Matt Rosendale, Montana’s state auditor, who is challenging Democratic incumbent Jon Tester — was Trump’s first campaign event after Labor Day, as he enters an active stretch before the November midterms. White House aides have said the president will hold multiple campaign events most weeks before voters head to the polls Nov. 6. Trump addressed the crowd, holding campaign signs and wearing “Make America Great Again” hats, for more than an hour and recited his usual litany of complaints over what he views as unfair press coverage. But Trump also seemed eager to defend his competence in the wake of the revelations in the book and the newspaper essay that his aides have allegedly taken action to hide information from him and ignore his instructions to set guardrails against his destructive impulses. “Is he competent?” Trump said in a tone mocking a news anchor. “I think I’m pretty competent!” Alluding obliquely to the New York Times op-ed, Trump said: “Look at that thing today. Is it subversion? Is it treason? The good thing about that is that even liberals that hate me think that’s a terrible thing they did.” Although Trump rallies are typically boisterous, the crowd in Montana was restrained, and the president, who tends to feed off the energy of his audience, appeared at times to be going through the motions. He attacked Democrats and liberal activists over their treatment of his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, over three days of contentious Senate confirmation hearings. “Do you believe the anger and the meanness on the other side?” Trump said. “It’s embarrassing to watch those people make fools of themselves screaming and shouting at this great gentleman.” Of Democrats, he said: “Their whole campaign is resist, resist.” Ahead of the rally, Trump conducted an offstage interview with a Fox News host, with the audio piped into the arena. The president criticized the Times for publishing the op-ed, saying it was likely a “low-level” or “deep state” person. He did not indicate whether he had an idea who wrote the op-ed. Trump also said he didn’t plan to shut down the government over the border wall because Republican leaders didn’t want him to do so. The crowd roared for a shutdown. “If it was up to me, I’d shut down the government over border security,” he said. Nakamura reported from Washington.